Senators Request Cyber Safety Analysis of Chinese-Owned DJI Drones

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Lawmakers raised concerns that sensitive data could leak to adversaries through foreign-owned consumer technology. 

A coalition of Senators spanning both sides of the aisle are requesting the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency conduct an investigation to evaluate any potential risks associated with drones manufactured by a China-based company with reported ties to the Chinese government.

Identified as Shenzhen DJI Innovation Technology Co., Ltd., the drone manufacturing company was previously labeled a “Chinese military company” by the U.S. Department of Defense. 

16 lawmakers—including Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.,  John Thune, R-S.D., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., and Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Todd Young, R-Ind., Ted Budd, R-N.C., JD Vance, R-Ohio, Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, Mike Braun, R-Ind., Deb Fischer, R-Nev., Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., and Jerry Moran, R-Kan.—penned a letter to CISA Director Jen Easterly to ask for a report on DJI’s drone activity in the U.S. and any security risks.

“Identification of this relationship between DJI and the PLA [People’s Liberation Army] suggests a range of risks to U.S. operators of the technology, including that sensitive information or data could wind up in PLA hands,” the letter reads. 

The primary concern lawmakers raise in the letter is whether any sensitive information from U.S. citizens and drone users could be exploited by malicious actors. DJI drones also maintain a significant market share in North America, with the senators citing 2021 statistics showcasing DJI dominating 90% of the consumer drone market. 

Sensitive U.S. data being exploited by foreign adversaries has become a recurring fear within national security circles, prompting the Biden administration to implement stronger cybersecurity protocols for U.S. infrastructure. 

“The widespread use of DJI drones to inspect critical infrastructure allows the CCP to develop a richly detailed, regularly updated picture of our nation’s pipelines, railways, power generation facilities and waterways,” the letter states. “This sensitive information on the layout, operation and maintenance of U.S. critical infrastructure could better enable targeting efforts in the event of conflict.”

The senators request that CISA revisit previous analyses on the safety of DJI drones and publish the results through the public National Cyber Awareness System.